3RD, 4TH, 5TH AUGUST 2014, THE CAMDEN HEAD – 9.30PM
A quick plug for the comedy show I’m doing on the Camden Fringe at the Camden Head, 100 Camden High Street, NW1 0LU on 3rd, 4th, 5th August – starts at 9.30pm.
I’m never that comfortable with self promotion but here you go.
BUY TICKETS HERE:
Londoner PAUL LAIGHT is a semi-pro comedian, film blogger, screenwriter and filmmaker. Paul’s a but miserable but tries so hard to be positive and it’s this dynamic which propels his comedy. He did his first comedy gig in January 2008 and performed at many gigs both as comic and compere. His set is gag-heavy with jokes based on personal experiences including: family, marriage and work. He’s both bitter and sweet as he examines his life. Despite his complaints he prefers to hang onto the positives and see the funny side of life.
ADAM GREENE is an up-and-coming comedian from South London. With a mix of observation and surrealism, Adam has earned plaudits from audiences, critics and fellow comics who describe him as “endearingly funny,” “surprisingly alright,” and “definitely OK”.
As a former frontman in a Punk band in the mid-noughties Adam developed a stage presence and confidence that made the transition into stand up smooth, winning competitions as early as his fourth gig. Preparing to make his Edinburgh debut in 2014 as part of the show Dancing with the Inflatable Colonel there is a bright future ahead for this comic.
“Next big thing – don’t quote me on that!” – Robin Banks, Promoter
Hope you can make it along to THE GREENE & LAIGHT SHOW – be seeing you.
NEVER EVER BLOODY ANYTHING EVER! THE GENIUS OF RIK MAYALL & MR JOLLY
**CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS YOU BASTARDS**
The passing of comedian and actor Rik Mayall was a ruddy shame. Of course I didn’t know the guy but from a cultural point-of-view here was a comedian, actor, raconteur, writer and clown who I grew up watching on the tellybox and escaped into fits of laughter just at his merest look, gesture, rant, pratfall and frying pan in the face. So when I heard of his death I was disappointed because he was dead. And would never be alive to perform again. That always positive energy was gone.
I myself have attempted stand-up on a lower-runged level of the comedy circuit and while you can obtain laughs through trial, error, gigging, experience, writing actual jokes blah, blah, blah etc. but what you can’t be taught is actually being funny. You’ve either got it or you haven’t. And Rik Mayall didn’t just have funny bones; he had funny eyes, ears, hair, nails, feet, hands, heart, spleen, blood etc. You get the picture: HE was fucking funny!
Kevin Turvey, Lord Flashheart, Richard Richard, his many Comic Strip performances, Alan B’stard, Drop Dead Fred, The Dangerous Brothers etc. were some of the many varied comedic performances Rik Mayall delivered. He could do clown, mania, slapstick, psycho, pathetic, sleazy, satirical, violence, arrogance, low status, high status, eloquence, sarcasm, smarm and many more. Like an overgrown demented child he could run amok, shout then whisper, go dark and then lighten up in a moment. And it was just so bloody natural.
Arguably his crowning performance was as Rick in The Young Ones, a surreal, punkish yet somehow still traditional situation comedy centred around four lazy students who essentially fail to get on whatsoever but still form a dysfunctional “family” unit. Rik was the spoilt mummy’s boy with inklings of anarchic desire yet with a penchant for Cliff Richard records. He was a spotty, poetry spouting virgin prone to bouts of rage and snivelling sycophancy and sneakiness with an anger toward authority and revolutionary ideals but neither the backbone, physical power or bottle to actually do anything that may bring a government down. He was basically a cowardly, hysterical child who happened to be hilarious at the same time.
The Young Ones was a defining comedy for me when I was growing up. I’d never seen anything like it. And ever since I have sought out such programmes containing profanity, imagination, stupidity, slapstick, satire, surrealism and above all else human beings trying and failing to get on with each other. I have subsequently found this in shows such as South Park, RedDwarf, Blackadder, The Day Today, Alan Partridge, The Office, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia to name but a few. However, for the remainder of this piece I want to pay tribute to — if you put a gun to my head — my favouritest thing that Rik was in ever! One of the funniest 50 minutes of comedy ever committed. The Comic Strip film: MR JOLLY LIVES NEXT DOOR!
The Comic Strip Presents: erupted from the sordid strip joint stages of Soho or more specifically the original Comedy Store. Alumni included: Adrian Edmondson, Dawn French, Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer, Peter Richardson, Jennifer Saunders, Alexei Sayle with frequent appearances by Keith Allen, Robbie Coltrane and many more comics who would become household names over the years. Anarchic, punkesque and anti-establishment in approach they were a hurricane of creativity challenging the comedic hegemony and what was considered to be the apolitical, sexist, politically incorrect and old-fashioned performers of the day.
From the stage they marched into our living rooms on the newly founded Channel 4 in 1982 (way back when C4 produced challenging programming) and over the years produced some wonderful and wacky short films, features and shows which satirised everything and anything from: literature, film, television, politics, music, war, fashion, sport, law etc. The Comic Strip Presents: were a staple for alternative souls and any new episodes were greeted with joy in the mind of South London latchkey-TV-addicted kids like myself.
The Comic Strip collective produced too many hilarious shows to mention but my favouritest ever is Mr Jolly Lives Next Door! Written by Mayall and Edmondson they presented two drunken, idiotic morons derived from their Dangerous Brothers’ stage personas. Together they are DREAMYTIME ESCORTS: alcoholic, depraved, sleazy con-artists with little or no redeeming qualities whatsoever; other than arguably perhaps they cause themselves more damage than others. Mr Jolly is a masterclass of violent slapstick, stupidity, sight gags, demented cameos and also some very well written jokes too.
It begins with our unnamed “heroes” helping the police with their enquiries relating to Fatty: a now dead client. Dreamytime Escorts then get confused with their mysterious-assassin-lunatic neighbour Mr Jolly (the hilarious Peter Cook) and somehow are involved in a plot to “take out” Nicholas Parsons; as arranged by demented gangland boss Mr Lovebucket (Peter Richardson). And the whole thing is directed by Stephen Frears – yes THAT Stephen Frears. The same one who directed The Grifters (1990), The Queen (2006) and Dangerous Liaisons (1988) etc.
So with a deranged story — which I think may have influenced another moronic classic Dumb and Dumber (1994) — on the go the audience is driven along on a wave of anarchic fun and alcohol fuelled insanity with Rick and Ade having much fun while they’re at it. The scenes where they torture the Japanese client and get so drunk they end up in the toilet screaming at each other — having “borrowed” Mr Lovebucket’s £3000 to kill Parsons — are a senseless joy. The drunken nonsense is ramped up even more when they take Quiz Show host and TV celebrity Nicholas Parsons to the Dorchester on a night out; Parsons believing they are competition winners when in fact the “Escorts” have accidentally run the real winners off the road and killed them in a fiery blaze.
To a teenager the sheer pace of the lunacy was a thing of beauty and even now when I watch Mr Jolly the chaotic nature of the scenes at the Dorchester at Parson’s house are packed full of physical performances, celebrity in-jokes, stupid sight gags such as the tattoo which Ade thinks has been put on backwards when he looks at it in the mirror. I marvel at the comic timing, sheer energy and controlled mayhem on show. The next day they suffer the grandest of hangovers and when Mr Lovebucket calls in his debt the two drunks must actually kill Parsons. What follows is live action cartoon violence of a side-splitting variety with Rik getting a hammer over his head and Ade holding on while two grenades explode.
Cue a finale which involves a crazy car chase, Rick shitting himself, Dreamytime Escorts van ending up in a skip, Mr Jolly murdering Parsons to the tune of What’s New Pussycat, exploding tonic water and Peter Richardson’s Lovebucket uttering the immortal words: “WHAT IS GOING ON!?” before the whole premises blows up. What you have are Stooges like physical humour combined with Loony Tunes style cartoon violence. There is little satire and no subtlety but it is uproariously funny. We end with Ade and Rick walking down Camden Lock canal before Mayall pushes his partner-in-grime in the water for no reason. And that is what is so great about Mr Jolly: it has no underlying meanings or any depth. It’s stupid and violent and loud and ruddy funny. Rick Mayall was all of these too and much much more and I thank him and Ade for giving us this crazy masterpiece.
The pitch: Groundhog Day with guns! The review: it’s bloody brilliant.
While it may have lifted it’s premise from Harold Ramis’ classic Sisyphian comedy, Edge of Tomorrow, is a sterling example of high-concept futuristic action which twists and turns and repeats and explodes in a breathlessly paced Alien v Human death-match. Also, Doug Liman is a fine genre director and handles the action, twisting plot and characterisation with an assured vision and touch. While perennial scene-stealer Emily Blunt shifts gear again from supporting-kooky-girlfriend-roles-to-hard-assed-action-hero with lusty aplomb; more than proving herself next to action veteran Tom Cruise.
Based on a Japanese novel All You Need is Kill, this is black-belt genre filmmaking and I more than got my money’s worth with Tom Cruise — after the kind-of-okay-but-ultimately-confusing-Oblivion (2013) — on excellent form. In fact, he plays against type at the start of the film as non-combative and cowardly PR expert William Cage who is thrown into battle against the monstrous Mimics from outer space.
He is killed very quickly during first combat and then finds himself back where he started living the same day over and over again.
The story evolves as Blunt’ Rita Vrataski and Cage join forces to destroy the Aliens. Usually Cruise movies have Tom as a hard bastard from the start brilliant at everything including fighting, jumping, killing, driving etc. The joy with this film is watching Cruise begin as an army novice and gain these skills throughout the film. Blunt in fact is in the Cruise role here being the kind of confident all-out action hero who we have come to expect Hollywood’s Dorian Gray to play in his sleep. But Blunt excels in a physically crunching Alien-killing role emanating a toughness allied with insouciant sexuality and sarcasm. Her partnership with Cruise is also a treat as the two physically and verbally spar and flirt with an always inventive and witty screenplay.
Every person involved in the creation of Edge of Tomorrow from the original writer, the scriptwriters, costume designers, special effects team, cast, composer, post-production team and so on and so forth deserve the plaudits for creating a blockbuster that has heart, humour and a brain. Okay, Groundhog Day did it first but if you’re going to rip off a classic then do it with class and Edge of Tomorrow certainly does that.
This massive budget reboot of Tohu’s iconic monster GODZILLA is not a terrible movie. It is a technical triumph in fact and has some memorable moments; however, for a MONSTER movie and cinematic experience it was a bitter, bitter disappointment. Plus, at times – dare I say it – it was pretty boring.
If I pay ten quid to see a film called GODZILLA I expect and demand ultimate carnage with the lives of thousands destroyed – eaten and crushed and fire-balled to death – while cities and oceans are awash with blood, rubble and the tears of survivors. Because Godzilla is a metaphor for nuclear attacks don’t you know so surely this should be your first priority: show annihilation and destruction of cities and humans? That’s what I want for my money!
Gareth Edwards and his massive team of filmmakers offer some destruction over its 120 minutes but ultimately Godzilla fails as a monster movie; it fails as a disaster film and fails most importantly as a piece of drama driven by believable and empathetic characters. It’s not a great surprise to be honest as the sophomore director got the gig on the back of his independent film MONSTERS (2010) which was filmed on Prosumer cameras with special effects and editing also done very cheaply. Much kudos goes to Edwards’ for creating Monsters on such a low budget and he is certainly a filmmaker who deserved a big break.
Monsters, like Godzilla was slow-moving, solemn and very serious in tone and in both films their monsters are hidden from view only appearing in full way too late in the narrative for my liking. I enjoyed Monsters because it gave us the brilliant actor Scoot McNairy who has gone onto to feature in some fine films notably Argo (2012) and Killing Them Softly (2012). But it was essentially a love-story-come-travelogue with the creatures having little direct impact or threat on the characters.
Sadly, this also happens somewhat in Godzilla. It begins promisingly enough in 1999 with a nuclear explosion caused by the hatching of an egg which releases an unknown creature into the sea. So far, so intrigued. Flash forward 15 years and Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is devastated by the loss of his wife (Juliette Binoche) during said nuclear disaster and obsessively attempts to find out what happened that fateful day. Throw Brody’s son portrayed by Aaron Taylor-Johnson – quite handily a bomb disposal expert – into the mix and you get a promising character axis on the go. Simultaneously, scientists Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe enter the fray to investigate but they are dull cardboard cut-outs there to serve us mundane expositional ramblings with no character momentum whatsoever. But Cranston’s character disappears from the narrative quite quickly and moreover, having to wait an hour before the first main bit of monster action really tested my patience.
I realise Edwards chose to go down the less-is-more route of Jaws (1975) but the reason the shark could not be seen in that was because the mechanical beast was beset with troubles and didn’t work so Spielberg and his team had to think creatively around this issue. Consequently, they created so many great set-pieces – something severely lacking in Godzilla. For example the scene with the two fishermen trying to catch the shark with a lump of meat is an especially brilliant sequence where the camera and music act as the shark. It’s a quality and economical piece of filmmaking with a fantastic punchline at the end to lift the mood.
When they do appear the Monsters are amazing to look at but there was not enough in the screenplay for me to actually give a damn by that time. The ensemble cast are pretty much wasted in my view and the less said about the screenplay the better. I feel it would have been better to have done a Towering Inferno (1974) or Poseidon Adventure (1972) style disaster movie with an ensemble star cast battling against the impact of Godzilla on their lives. In fact, Godzilla, however impressive he may look is pretty benign as a threat to humans; a decision which dumbfounded me. Overall, I felt the film needed a bigger name director like Steven Spielberg or Peter Jackson or a James Cameron figure to give us that WOW factor. The screenplay also had a humour bypass too and I failed to get value for my entrance fee. Sad to say this film was a gigantic disappointment.
I’m a bit behind with my film reviews presently because I was busy preparing and performing in my comedy show ROCK N DROLL at the Brighton Fringe Festival. Thus, because I was wowing an army of fans over three nights (77 people total approx.) on the South Coast I am now playing a bit of catch-up on the reviews. Overall, Brighton Fringe Festival was fantastic and I am grateful to Laughing Horse Comedy, The Hobgoblin and the 77 people (and the dog at Sunday’s show) for the helping make it a success. From small victories BIG battles are won.
Talking of big battles there aren’t quite enough of them for my liking in THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2. There is a tremendous opening sequence with Peter Parker/Spiderman fighting what I thought would be one of the main villains — Paul Giamatti’s criminally underused Aleksei Sytsevich — while desperately attempting to get to his graduation ceremony. If it all feels a little familiar the ghost of Sam Raimi’s Millenium Spiderman series hangs heavy like the Reaper’s scythe over this and Marc Webb’s previous Spiderman film. The imaginary blade waits there in my mind comparing and contrasting ready to swing the final blow where I just say, “Nah! Sam Raimi’s films were much better! Thumb down! Off with its’ head.”
I must say though that this is high quality filmmaking of the blockbuster kind and it’s very hard not to like it. Perhaps, I’m asking too much but despite all the stellar work from the whole cast and technical crew I just didn’t connect with this one totally. I mean, I like Andrew Garfield as an actor but feel he’s better as a dramatic actor than cheeky superhero. My choice would’ve been Joseph Gordon Levitt but perhaps he’s too old now. Anyway, Emma Stone is stunning and so good in this while Dane DeHaan, Paul Giamatti and Jamie Foxx are all excellent but spread far too thin across the narrative. DeHaan and Foxx especially deserved much better for their respective energies and ability. Foxx is an Oscar winner goddamit!! And if you want to see what DeHaan can do then please watch Chronicle (2012) an amazingly good anti-superhero film and the best found-footage film I’ve ever seen.
There’s a lot of story in this sequel dubbed The Rise of Electro. In fact it has more lines than Tony Montana’s big mahogany desk at the end of Scarface. We have Peter Parker’s on-off romance (yawn!) with gorgeous Gwen Stacy; the mysterious disappearance of his parents (again); his reconnection with school friend Harry Osborn; attempting to keep his Spiderman identity secret from Aunt May (again); and the main foe — lowly Max Dillon — Electro causing New York an energy bill that would make Bill Gates weep. Alas, the romantic stuff takes a huge chunk out of the other more interesting stories and the action I craved.
I cannot fault the screenwriting team for their effort by trying to entertain the audience but at times I felt overwhelmed as each storyline was elbowed out of the way by the next one; with the narrative jigsaw not quite joining together satisfactorily as a whole. I really wanted to get involved in Max Dillon’s story as a lowly downtrodden OsCorp operative but his origins story isn’t given much time. As a villain there isn’t much focus other than he idolises Spiderman. I mean what happened to the vengeful employee as motivation? I really wanted this humble man to cause even more havoc than he does but he’s imprisoned for some time after his capture.
Another storyline which is dealt with too briskly is Harry Osborn’s relationship with his father Norman (Chris Cooper) which feels like it has fallen straight out of Paul Thomas Anderson’s superlative Magnolia (1998). Nonetheless, I thought oh, this is interesting, how will this pan out? He’s dead. Okay? Did Harry kill him in anger? No. Norman Osborn just died. Oh. We’re now back to Parker and Stacy’s on-off relationship. I DON’T CARE! It’s been half-an-hour since some stuff was blown up. Get back to that please?!?!?!?!
Marc Webb is a fine and dandy director as he proved with the brilliant bittersweet anti-rom-com 500 Day’s of Summer but personally I don’t feel he was the right choice for the Spiderman reboots. His Spiderman films feel too mature and not fun enough. They feel like have TOO much humanity and feelings. His camera is not kinetic enough and the beautiful wide vistas painted on screen don’t get us into the action quickly enough for me. I mean to get this kind of gig after a successful debut film is pretty amazing but he’s certainly a filmmaker to watch and perhaps his risk-taking and stylistic hands are somewhat tied by a big studio picture such as this. Arguably, perhaps he’s TOO GOOD an artist for this kind of movie. Just a thought.
I feel like I am being very critical of what is a very decent piece of entertainment but it’s only because I was disappointed that I pretty much had to sit through what was another Spiderman “origins” film. Because let’s face it the The Amazing Spiderman (2012) wasn’t great. But The Amazing Spiderman 2 has some incredible action notably the Times Square battle between Electro and Spiderman and an absolute spell-binding ending which pulled the dramatic rug from out under my feet. Moreover, in establishing Dane DeHaan’s devilish Green Goblin the third film promises to be pretty sweet. I just hope they put the family and romance stuff a bit more to the fringes and concentrate on all-out action. He is the AMAZING Spiderman after all!! I’m greedy I want to be more AMAZED for my money! If I want more young-adult romance from ridiculously attractive people I’ll watch Gossip Girl or god forbid Hollyoaks! Then again the dramatic unexpected ending does redeem much of this and for the wonderful cast, cracking musical score (Hans Zimmer et al take a bow) and a couple of (not enough though) superb set-pieces the entry fee was worth my hard-earned cash.
In 2005 me and my ex-partner separated and I moved back to live in London. She continued to live in Ascot, Berkshire with my son, Rhys. However, three-and-a-half years ago she decided — for some random reason unknown to me — to move my son and herself to Swansea in Wales. This created much tension and resentment on my part which festered and cause some disagreement and from time-to-time verbal jousts. However, after over 3 years of travelling up and down the M4 to see my son she finally — with my help — moved back to Ascot.
My son is a funny and intelligent boy of 13 and as we moved all their stuff we had a quite deep existential conversation about his Swansea adventure. Demonstrating an Albert Camusesque approach to the last few years the boy stated that the whole “move to Swansea had been a bit pointless?” I considered this for a moment and weighed up whether it had been worth:
1) Hours driving up and down the M4 motorway getting stuck in all manor of traffic jams.
2) Almost dying when skidding from one lane to the next in the torrential rain.
3) Witnessing accidents and aftermath of accidents on the M4 as well as a whole host of road-killed dead animals.
4) Having to pay the extortionate and forever rising cost of crossing the Severn Bridge to get into Wales.
5) Paying the pricks in Government a fortune in tax on petrol! And a bit on petrol too.
6) Paying to stay in many, many, Hotels and Bed and Breakfasts.
Internally, the Hulk-like rage was building up inside me as I prepared to let go a volley of anger in having to experience all this but then I decided it had been worth it. He’s my son and he is worth every penny and I would have gone EVERY weekend if money had allowed. In fact, if I thought they would not come back I would have moved there to be with him. Probably.
So I told my son that it WAS worth it because it had been a positive experience and there are worse places in the world than Swansea. For anyone interested in going there here are some of the sites and delights I experienced which made it all worthwhile.
1. THE GOWER PENINSULA
If you love beaches (not the film) and walks and nature then this is the place for you. As Keats may say: “a thing of beauty is a joy forever!”
2. DINOSAUR PARK and SHOWCAVES
This place was fantastic with beautiful scenery and wonderful majestic caves which made one feel very humble. The dinosaurs ain’t bad either.
Definitely check out these places if you want okay food. The Uplands Diner – Home of the Megabeast – is a great café!
Cosmo is very reasonably priced all-you-can-scoff buffet place.
The Madras Takeaway in Sketty was VERY good Indian food –
Plus there’s loads of pubs and clubs in the town which I’m sure are good for getting wasted and picking up cheap men or women. I just didn’t go out at the weekends as I was too knackered from the drive! NOT THAT I’M BITTER OR ANYTHING!
I stayed in loads and loads of hotels and B & B’s while I visiting Swansea but the best one was definitely in Uplands and that was The Alexander. The people who run it are so polite and friendly without being intrusive. I enjoyed my stay there each time and the breakfast was great plus it was cheap but not nasty.
5 – OAKWOOD THEME PARK
Technically not in Swansea but in Tenby this is Wales equivalent to Alton Towers. It’s no patch on the Midlands Monster Park and a bit rough around the edges. However, it has some great rides especially the SPEED rollercoaster. Very frightening!
6. HORSE-RIDING – PARC-LE-BREOS- ON THE GOWER
This was a fantastic day out and pretty reasonably priced as well. If you like horse-riding and like beaches then why not go horse-riding on the beach. The views were outstanding.
7. BATTLEFIELD LIVE – LASER-COMBAT
The boy didn’t like horse-riding that much as it was “boring” but he loved this action-game-similar-to-paintball-but-much-much better as you get 10 lives per game and don’t get covered in paint.
Unfortunately this young lady isn’t there but it’s still great fun running around pretending you’re Rambo and shooting people with toy laser guns!
8. FOLLY FARM
This is the cutest place in the whole of Swansea with a whole Noah’s Ark of domestic, farm and exotic animals. It also has playgrounds and fun for all the family; even a cynical, grumpy bugger like me.
9. SKIDZ GO-KARTING
Me and Rhys had a great time doing this and on a Sunday morning we’d have the track to ourselves. I was brilliant at the karting and the kid regularly ate the dust; and I beat him in the race too.
10. SINGLETON PARK, CLYNE GARDENS & OTHER PARKS
I do a lot of running and walking and Singleton Park and other parks in Swansea are absolutely beautiful in the Spring and Summer. Swansea overall is a very natural and wonderfully fresh place. Especially when compared to the gut-wrenching-lung-busting-pollution of London.
That’s the end of the list. The boy hates sport so I didn’t get to go to the Liberty Stadium to watch rugby or football. We went to the cinema a lot too. But basically these are all places I have visited and things I would not have done if my son hadn’t moved to Swansea so overall I would say it wasn’t pointless at all. Just a lot of hard work driving back and forth. But he’s family so you have to do the right thing by your family.
Having said all that the greatest thing I ever saw on my trips to Wales was this:
Welcome to England! Because as Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home, Toto. There’s no place like home.” Welcome back son!
UNIQUE filmmaking comes along every so often into the Multiplexes. This is cinematic Art of the highest quality, a sheer visual treat and an unnerving and very memorable experience.
NAKED and nameless at the start Scarlett’s character is a literal void or blank; her birth begins with an eye filling the screen backed by ambient, eerie and almost silent noise. We then find her — against a stark white background — removing the clothes of a seemingly dead woman as she appears to steal her identity.
DEATH hangs over the film she is dropped at a grim rotting house located somewhere in Scotland and provided with a white van with which to seduce and kill unsuspecting men. Her only contact here is a male “handler” or “pimp” on a motorcycle who cleans and collects her victims after she has led them to their demise.
EROTICISM initially drives the film as an often naked Scarlett becomes the focus of our gaze. But her murderous actions render all sexual feelings redundant as we become accomplices to her crimes.
RELATIONSHIPS between Scarlett and the men is at the heart of the narrative. She connects with them coldly relying on her looks to hook them in then ends their lives and seemingly passes them onto her handler.
TORMENTED by her actions Scarlett becomes trapped by her mission. The story hinges on how the character becomes affected by her actions. She slowly connects with her prey and ultimately becomes the hunted having gone absent without leave.
HORROR arrives not from shock tactics but the slow build-up of tension as events occur at a glacial pace. The scene on the beach is one of the most horrific I have seen at the cinema in recent years. Hack cuts and slashing music so prevalent in modern horror is eschewed in favour of strangeness, visual imagination and intense performances.
EERIE and unnerving the score is atmospheric while the dialogue is stripped naked and bare. Nothing is forced. The film is both highly stylised but seems natural simultaneously. You only have to look at Glazer’s work on music videos and adverts to know nothing is by accident.
SCARLETT Johansson is incredible under fantastic direction from Jonathan Glazer. My understanding is many of the scenes were improvised with untrained actors supporting her. She uses her sexuality to great impact but also shows an intensity perhaps not seen in her other performances.
KILLING and murder is shown in an incredibly imaginative way; shot in a dark room where she strips and leads the men to a weird liquid where they drown. This is very surreal and symbolic. What this symbolises is down to the audience to decide. Like the rest of the film the makers deny us easy explanations refusing to spoon-feed meaning and reason into our Hollywood factory-fattened guts.
INTROSPECTIVE and moody the film really moved me. Scarlett’s character is a tragic figure who gains our eventual sympathy from being used, sexualised and pursued by men. She doesn’t want to be a murderer and desires herself humanity and attempts escape but finds she is unable to get away from an oppressive, pervasive patriarchy. This is reflected by a stunning ending that will haunt me for some time.
NOT quite a non-narrative film this is a surreal treat which while linear owes much to the work of David Lynch and Luis Bunuel. Based on Michael Faber’s novel I understand the lead character is an alien killing men for their flesh but this is totally left out of the movie version.
I am happy that a British independent film got a proper release. I would hazard a guess Jonathan Glazer’s poetic, visceral and disturbing mood poem has found distribution amongst the popcorn strewn, coke-guzzling reaches of the Odeons and Vues due to the impressive presence of bona fide movie star and sex symbol Scarlett Johansson.
Overall, I wasn’t sure about Under The Skin (2013) after I had seen it. But like all great art it stayed with me and I could not get it out of my mind. And I still can’t. It’s not a super-hero film. It’s not a date movie. It’s not a 3-D CGI sick-fest. It’s pure, pulsing, hypnotic cinema of the highest quality that – IN MY OPINION – is about the exploitation of foreign sex workers brought to this country without hope, humanity or identity.
Having recently been intellectually challenged by heavyweight cinematic offerings such as 12 Years a Slave (2013), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) and The Lego Movie (2014), I decided to go see Liam Neeson’s latest actioner for a change of pace and mood. Indeed, Non-Stop (2014) wears its’ B-movie credentials proudly and passes as very serviceable entertainment if you don’t want to have to think too hard for 106 minutes.
**CONTAINS CLIPS & SPOILERS**
The story is an intriguing one. Bill Marks (Neeson) – identikit tragi-alcoholic-cop with bereaved past – is a US Air Marshal responsible for flight security. However, this journey is going to be a very bumpy ride as one mysterious passenger has it in for Bill. The baddie is going to kill someone on the plane every 20 minutes if their demands aren’t met. This plays out with a great deal of suspense and Neeson fighting against the clock to save lives as death comes-a-knocking. The claustrophobic nature of the setting really cranks up the tension and there’s a neat little twist as Marks’ himself becomes the main suspect.
The film opens slowly establishing all the players and as it progresses it reminded me of an Agatha Christie mystery with Neeson playing rugged, brutish and ever-more frantic detective. It’s great fun as the criminal gives Marks the runaround as they kill off passengers in some imaginative ways. Everyone becomes a suspect and the plot deftly keep you guessing with misdirection as your suspicions move from one character to another. It reminded me of another decent B-movie I saw last year Red Riding Hood (2011). In all honesty the film falls apart slightly at the end with a mildly ridiculous reveal that’s masked during the rip-roaring final set-piece. But overall I enjoyed this unpretentious movie helmed by the very competent genre director Jaume Collet-Serra.
The main asset of Non-Stop is an excellent cast notably one of my favourite actresses – the stunning Julianne Moore. Moore, Corey Stoll, Linus Roache, Scoot McNairy add some quality in support to the main man: Liam Neeson. The tough Irishman rises above some silly dialogue and clichéd characters as he once again proves himself an excellent action hero. Who would have thought the star of historical epics such as Michael Collins (1996), Schindler’s List (1993) would’ve carved out a latter-day career as an ass-kicking tough guy. But he’s always mixed it up throughout his career appearing in big budget blockbusters and lower budget movies.
Interestingly, Neeson is reportedly have turned down the role of James Bond in the 1990s. Which is a shame because as he demonstrated in massive sleeper hit Taken (2008), really good Euro-thriller Unknown (2011) and Non-Stop (2013) he is a magnetic presence on screen, someone who you root for and also very decent in a punch-up. While socio-politicists may argue Taken was xenophobic and tapped into a subconscious fear of foreigners – who really cares! Sometimes you just want to watch a film where a bloke built like a brick shithouse beats the crap out of a load of bad guys! And Neeson does this with aplomb in Non-Stop, but this time it’s wrapped in a murder mystery whodunnit set in the mile-high club.
Here’s a list of the most entertaining films I saw at the Cinema and on DVD/Blu-Ray in 2013!
There are LOADS of films I HAVEN’T seen but based on all the films I have watched at the cinema and on DVD these are the ones I enjoyed the most. I have favoured mainly commercial films over the World or Art cinema. This is because my taste over the years has admittedly become more conservative and I take less risk with my choices. It’s also because more challenging low budget movies rarely get on the big screen because of the hegemonic control by the imperialist Hollywood machine. Oh well, what you gonna do?
FAVOURITE FILMS 2013 (in Alpha order)
ANCHORMAN 2 (2013) – the News Team reformed with stupidity and laughs aplenty in this fun sequel to the original, classy comedy.
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013) – Hanks is incredible in the true-life story of a Ship-jacking off the African coast.
THE CONJURING (2013) – Pretty standard spooky story raised in quality by James Wan’s fluid direction and Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga’s brilliant couple of Ghosthunters.
DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012) – Tarantino throws his postmodern hat over the Western in this rip-roaring and politically incorrect revenge story.
FLIGHT (2012) – What begins with an incredibly nail-biting plane crash becomes a fascinating character-study of one man battling his demons.
GRAVITY (2013) – Alfonso Cuaron’s breathtaking space odyssey-survival thriller finds Clooney and Bullock up space creek without a shuttle. Gripping from start to finish.
LOOK OF LOVE (2013) – Steve Coogan is brilliant as immoral pornographer Paul Raymond, and Michael Winterbottom again shows why he’s one of the best directors around.
RUBY SPARKS (2012) Paul Dano stars as a writer with both creative and romantic block who somehow “writes” about a girl who comes to life. Sharp and witty romantic comedy.
RUSH (2013) – Daniel Bruehl and Chris Hemsworth play Lauda and Hunt in this cracking 70s based biopic centring on one of Formula One’s closest championships.
RUST & BONE (2102) – Audiard’s dark, love story which is both brutal and beautiful in equal measure. Wonderful chemistry between the leads Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts.
SIDE EFFECTS (2013) – Twisting thriller with the captivating Rooney Mara and Jude Law which appears at first to be a critique of the pharmaceutical industry but bends into something more tricky.
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012) – David O. Russell does genre films like no one else and his bi-polar romance finds Lawrence and Cooper on terrific form as are the rest of the ensemble cast.
THIS IS THE END (2013) – Hollywood frat-boy comedy about the end of days with Franco, Hill, Rogen, McBride etc. trying to survive the apocalypse. Laugh-of-minute and full of great cameos.
I watch A LOT of films (and TV)! Here are some I’ve watched in the last few months. And for those people with goldfishesque attention spans or really busy lives I’ve summed up my critiques in no more than 20 words!
2 GUNS (2013)
Loud-brash-half-brained-actioner with heightened watchability down to great chemistry between Washington and Wahlberg!
BAD EDUCATION – SEASON 1 (2012)
Jack Whitehall – as overgrown Man-Child-come-Teacher Alfie Wickers – stars and co-wrote this generic but very funny BBC sitcom.
BROKEN CITY – (2013)
Disappointing political thriller with not much politics or thrills. Has its’ moments but wastes a great cast including Crowe, Wahlberg etc.
Well directed low-budget thriller. Gripping yet difficult to believe people would be so stupid but it REALLY happened. Dumb Americans!
GANGSTER SQUAD (2013)
Beautiful looking yet hollow drama with excessive budget for little narrative satisfaction. Watch LA CONFIDENTIAL instead! Same story; different class.
THE LAST STAND (2013)
Schwarzenegger’s career is more Dutch Elm disease than Austrian Oak now as this fun-but-moronic actioner proves.
LES MISERABLES (2012)
Musical for people, like me, who hate musicals. Crowe, Jackman and Hathaway yank the heartstrings in this sprawling, epic masterpiece!
THE LOOK OF LOVE (2013)
Michael Winterbottom’s surprisingly touching biopic of pornographer Paul Raymond is anchored superbly by Steve Coogan’s best cinematic performance yet.
THE MASTER (2012)
Fun’s NOT a word you’d use to describe this weighty, intense black-belt drama infected by Hoffman and Phoenix’s incredible performances.
OZ THE GREAT & POWERFUL (2013)
Raimi’s queer epic updates the OZ universe for modern days. With Kunis, Weisz, Williams starring – witches’ve never been so hot!
PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (2012)
Tri-polar crime drama which throws its’ best asset away 45 minutes but holds dramatic court via fine direction and committed performances.
RUST & BONE (2012)
Cotillard and Schoenaerts fizz with passion and brute sexuality in this opposites-attract adult drama from directorial genius Jacques Audiard.
SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (2013)
Fraudulent waste of stellar cast as seven characters search for a plot in this pointless drama. It’s no IN BRUGES!
SIDE EFFECTS (2013)
Neat thriller which wrong foots at every turn. Begins as serio-critique of the pharmaceutical industry but genre-curves into something more sinister.
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2013)
Beautiful, crazy, romantic drama with sensational ensemble cast. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence catch fire and burn the silver screen.
SPRING BREAKERS (2013)
Amoral wankfest which has its’ tits and eats them in satirical movie con-trick. James Franco is great as plastic-wigga-gangster though!
THIS IS THE END (2013)
Apocalyptic comedy with Rogen, Franco, Hill, McBride, Baruchal etc. playing themselves! Rollicking, silly, side-splitter full of fun cameos.
TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (2012)
Eastwood grizzles and Amy Adams sizzles in by-the-numbers yet appealing sports drama that drifts along pleasantly enough.
THE WEE MAN (2013)
Great little actor Martin Compston is the main appeal in this low-budget Scottish crime drama based on a true story.
WORLD’S END (2013)
Hilarious and touching conclusion to Cornetto Trilogy as Pegg/Frost combat alien marauders on a pub crawl. Spiffing 90s soundtrack to boot!